Perfect Birth, Part 2: It’s Personal

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my heart about an issue that I know plagues expectant mothers everywhere: what does it take to have a perfect birth?

I touched on the fact that while childbirth education is imperative, and support during labor is helpful, we still don’t know how any woman will react to the labor process until she is already in the moment. I made the point that all births, no matter what they look like, are victories to be celebrated. And I mean that. All births are their own brand of perfect. But sometimes, for some women, the truth is this:

Even perfect birth can be traumatic.

I would be foolish not to acknowledge that some women have frightening or even life-threatening births and are forced to come to terms with their experience. For one reason or another, the process simply doesn’t “work” in some situations. For some of these women, my testimony about my disappointing birth experience and my injured feelings of self-worth might be exactly what they need. But for others, well… maybe not so much.

Beyond our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies, we are each also composed of our own complicated list of experiences. We have a mind, which we discuss in class, but we also have a subconscious mind, which we couldn’t even begin to cover: immature in its ability to make sense of our experiences, and endlessly vulnerable to the hoaxes of the enemy (again: see the Devotional). Working quietly behind the scenes, beneath our cool, collected exterior, it shapes our reactions to every one of our life experiences.

It’s personal.

In the five years since starting my childbirth services company, I have had no choice but to grow as an individual. I have been brought to my knees by some of my own life experiences. Shaken to the core of my beliefs. The shaping of my character as an adult has been arduous, and I have fought hard to find—and hold on to—what is true. In the process, I have also come to see some of that which is not.

I have learned something very important: We are each fighting our own battles. Maybe that sounds cliché, but this is relevant in all areas of life – including the quest for a great birth. For me to come alongside a woman and preach “worth,” when her own personal life experiences have shaped her to need a message of “safety” (for example), would mean that I have missed her altogether.

But how can I help? How do I know what someone needs, when it is beyond their own understanding? How do I discern the tune of their song, unless they themselves can sing it to me?

It’s possible.

The message I offer in my classes about worth and birth idolatry and relationship problems is—in all humility—good. It is quality stuff, and I will continue to teach it. But if I am to partner with God in caring for souls, then I must work from the heart with all of the skill allotted to me. There is more I can offer on an individual basis, seeking hearts and re-adjoining them to God’s in a way that is so much bigger, so much more personal, than the quest for the perfect birth.

It’s time to integrate more. Eden’s Promise is ready to offer you – each mother, father, and child- more than I ever dreamed possible. Click here to find out more!

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner  Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator.She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer was the 3-time doula to Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (esteemed author of Expectant Parentsa pregnancy/childbirth/parenting book by Focus on the Family). In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching and Splankna Therapy Colorado Springs. Jennifer is a featured blogger for My719Moms.com. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.

The Birth Story of Cami* (2nd child, induction, no pain meds)

The Birth Story of Cami*

*identifying information changed, for client privacy 

 Tuesday was a great day for the Moore* family. Just one week prior, Elizabeth* and Mark* had returned home from their doctor’s appointment, disappointed with the news that their baby would not be induced that day as they had hoped. Cami’s small ultrasound measurements had kept Dr. Hingle* on her toes for several weeks, as she tried to decide when would be the best time for Cami to be born. While technically it was good news that the induction could wait, because it meant that Cami was healthy in the womb and could be allowed to grow in there a little longer, it still made for a long week as they waited for the time they could hold their baby in their arms.

The following Tuesday, the induction time was set for 5:30 a.m.Elizabeth sent me a text to inform me of the plan: start Pitocin at 5:30, possibly get an epidural, get water broken at 7 a.m. I met them at the hospital as they were getting settled in. The three of us chatted with Sarah*, the nurse who had attended to Elizabeth while she was in labor with Eliot. Seeing a familiar face was comforting to all of us. To me, it felt like a nice reminder of how God had come through for us with the birth of Eliot—and how He would do it again.

Because Dr. Hingle was already at the hospital at 6 a.m., things were done in a different order than we had been expecting. Instead of starting Pitocin, Dr. Hingle broke Elizabeth’s water (or, at least, thought she did). As a supporter of Elizabeth’s birth plan, Dr. Hingle hoped that this would cause Elizabeth to go into labor on her own, without the use of Pitocin. She told Elizabeth that if she wasn’t in labor after a few hours, then she would recommend Cytotec to soften the cervix, and if necessary, follow it up with Pitocin to start contractions. An epidural would probably have been placed coinciding the use of Pitocin, but as it turned out, neither was necessary for little Cami to be born.

Mark, Elizabeth, and I walked around the Birthing Center, waiting for contractions to start. Elizabeth did feel a few light contractions, but as her nurse, Elaine explained, we knew she wasn’t in labor yet because she still looked beautiful. What Elizabeth was experiencing was early labor symptoms, like she experienced at home before she went into labor with Eliot.

Because Elizabeth had not yet fallen into a labor pattern, one dose of Cytotec was administered around 9:30 a.m. The three of us relaxed in the hospital room for the next hour, chatting and snacking on hospital food, and once Elizabeth was allowed to get out of bed again, we resumed our alternating pattern of walking, birth ball, monitoring, and restroom breaks. It was during one of these  breaks , around 10:30 a.m., that Elizabeth’s water finally broke. Movement continued to encourage release of the fluid, so we just kept on moving.

Dr. Hingle was due to return to the hospital around 12:30 to check on Elizabeth and decide whether or not to start Pitocin. I think we were all prepared for this course of action, yet were still pleasantly surprised when Dr. Hingle opted not to start Pitocin after all. With Elizabeth still only at 3 cm dilated, Dr. Hingle really could have gone either way on that decision—but the fact that she was encouraged, was encouraging to us as well.

By this point, Elizabeth had started to grow more serious and was falling into more of an active labor pattern. To encourage full-blown labor, Mark helped her with taking a warm shower to relax and stimulate Oxytocin release. It worked. By 2:00 p.m., Elizabeth was in full-blown labor.

Having been up most of the night before and not having been allowed to eat anything of substance all day, Elizabeth grew tired quickly. (Also, having been in the same room for so long, and thinking of herself as “in labor” since 5:30 a.m. probably didn’t help her mindset.) To freshen up the environment, we changed the lighting and the music, applied some aromatherapy, read scripture and prayed.

Elaine, Elizabeth’s nurse, came in frequently to assess our progress and joined in as a both a coach and team member. She was a Godsend, applying pressure to Elizabeth’s sore back and offering her knowledge and words of encouragement. Mark stayed with Elizabeth the whole time, getting her through each contraction. Elizabeth would often signal the beginning of a contraction by saying, “Mark, I need you.” He would then hold her hands and look into her eyes, coaching and encouraging her, one contraction at a time. I told them then, and I’ll say it again now: they are a great team.

Sometimes it seemed like Elizabeth might ask for an epidural. She talked about wanting to be done, or feeling afraid of what she knew was to come. More scripture, more prayer, more aromatherapy, more movement and more encouragement; supporting her through one contraction at a time, we each gave her all we had to offer. Whatever we may have lacked as her support team, I know God provided. Although Elizabeth had been planning to get an epidural this time around, she never did ask for one. I give God the glory for that. Whatever the reason, He wanted Cami to be born without one. So, He got Elizabeth through it.

Hours passed by quickly as we rotated through various positions, hoping to help Elizabeth cope as Cami dropped into position. Around 5:30 p.m., Elaine called Dr. Hingle to give her a progress report, and the two of them tried to decide whether Dr. Hingle would have time to attend her son’s school performance. Elizabeth had spent some time “resting” on her side, and it was clear that it wouldn’t be much longer before she would need to push.

Whether or not she made it to the performance, I don’t know. Dr. Hingle came in around 6:30 and checked Elizabeth, finding her at 7 cm. Dr. Hingle prepared some warm washcloths as compresses,  and just a few contractions later, she told Elizabeth to go ahead and start pushing. It took Elizabeth a few contractions to focus and re-learn “how” to push, but once she got it down, Cami was born quickly. The way Cami was turning as she was delivered explained the back pain that Elizabeth had felt during labor. (Like her brother, Cami had apparently decided to do some last-minute gymnastics before being born.)

Cami was born at 7:30* p.m. She had a strong, healthy cry and seemed happy to be placed on Elizabeth’s chest as she snuggled in for warmth. She was placed quickly on the scale after a few minutes, weighing in at 5 lbs. 7 oz. Little as she was, she was strong and healthy, and learned to nurse after just a few tries.

I went to visit the three of them in the hospital the next day. It was fun to see them with their second child; they were so relaxed and comfortable with their new baby. It’s amazing what a little practice can do! As we reflected on Cami’s birth story, the three of us found ourselves wondering what had happened to the epidural she had been planning to utilize as pain management. The goal had not necessarily been for Elizabeth to have a natural birth; after all, we had gone in thinking the day would start with Pitocin and an epidural. Instead, it took one little dose of Cytotec to get it started, and the rest had happened naturally. No one was holding out on pain management for any particular purpose. None of us really know why it went how it did.

My only thought is that God knows what Cami needs. He also knows what Elizabeth needs. Between the two of them, I know God was caring for one or both of them with how He worked things out. The truth is, God knows what we need even better than we do. And when we place ourselves under His care, He is able to provide what we need—even if we don’t know to ask.

Elizabeth and Mark, I am so glad I was able to be there to support you through Cami’s birth. The way the two of you lean on each other and God, is nothing less than beautiful. Thank you for the honor of inviting me to attend Cami’s birth. Baby Cami, may your birth story always remind you that God knows what you need. It’s not about asking for the “right” thing; it’s about seeking His presence in your life. As long as He is with you, all of your needs, whether spoken or not, will be met in Him. May that truth always be with you.

With love,

Jen DeBrito

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE, is a doula and childbirth educator is Colorado Springs, CO. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.